I received an email the other day that really got to me. It was from a reader who felt that her past behavior with men had precluded her from having a future with a good man. My heart went out to her. It brought back to me all those times I, too, questioned my own worthiness of a different kind of love with a different kind of man, because of my past less than perfect decisions.
Because it doesn't matter where we've been, what we've been through, on some level so many of us have experienced that feeling, that question in our minds of whether where we've been, where we've come from, has somehow excluded us from having our own happily ever after with a man of character. And the longer it takes, the more we find ourselves repeating the same patterns over and over again, finding ourselves with the same type of men, just a different name, but the same MO, we question it even more. Is this our punishment? Were we that bad? Have we done something that unforgivable?
It says more about our culture than it says about you.
We live in a culture that is all too much about punishment than grace, about blame than compassion, about shame than empathy and understanding. From a young age we learn that bad behavior deserves to be punished, that it doesn't matter why we do something, it’s the outward behavior that counts. And so with a culture that is so unforgiving and judgmental toward each other, it's not surprising that we treat ourselves this same way and expect that others will judge us this way, too.
And that’s the problem.
It isn't our past behaviors that keep us living this way, with this kind of self-punishing attitude toward ourselves. It isn't where we've been and what we've done in our lives that we’re not proud of that keep us stuck in our patterns. It's the way we feel about ourselves. It's this baggage we're carrying around. It’s this kind of judgmental, punitive thinking that keeps us stuck and repeating the same patterns over and over again because we've learned our cultural mantras so well, we have no doubt that we don’t deserve anything better than this.
You did the best with what you knew at the time.
Whatever you did, however you behaved, it was where you were at the time. It was the best you knew how to do. When we are desperate, when there is a need so deep within us that we feel like we would rather die than be alone or left one more time, it isn't just about being alone. It is about a need that runs so deep and so subconscious that it defies all logic and reality. That’s the whole point. It isn’t something that you logically made a decision to do. It seemed to take on a life of its own. You didn’t know any better. These aren’t excuses; they are what your reality was at the time. The triggers that weren’t about an adult woman making a healthy logical decision, but were more of the scared little girl inside making a decision through that filter, based on the needs of a little girl.
We are so hard on ourselves!
We think we need to be perfect, or at least somewhere close. We have so little grace for ourselves, for what we’ve been through, where we’ve come from. We don’t understand that it’s not about exchanging blame for ourselves with blame for the people who raised us or blame for our culture. It's time to stop being so hard on yourself. It’s about getting away from blaming and shaming all together and replacing those negative ingrained practices that serve no one, and certainly not ourselves, with love and compassion and empathy for each and every one of us for being exactly who we are, not what we were supposed to be! It’s about realizing that we don’t want anyone in our lives who would judge us and punish us and hold us to impossible standards based on the reality of who we are and our own very individual stories that no one ever has any right to judge us for, and certainly not if they’ve never walked in our shoes. And it’s about finally getting that a quality man, someone who is truly worthy of us, has figured this out, too. He won’t be expecting perfection. He won’t be judging us like we expect. Someone who is truly right for you will only have love and understanding, and empathy and compassion for you.
You still have so much to offer.
Nothing has changed. No matter what you’ve been through or where you’ve been. The truest purest kind of love is still your birthright. You still have so much to offer. Those thoughts that would tell you differently, that would have you believe this is your punishment, to never have the love of a good man because of something you did that was just so bad, are wrong. They are part of that false belief system so many of us hold and have such a hard time shaking off of us, that we aren't good enough, that we don't deserve better because of something in our past, something so bad that we did that we must pay for over and over again. But these are lies, all of them. Yes, they run deep. But a true love for yourself runs even deeper. And that’s the kind of love that knows without a doubt the real truth; that there is nothing you can ever do that would mean you don't still deserve all that is good and wonderful and beautiful in life and love.
You just need to believe it, too.